Because It's Still Cool To Blog

What Made BlogHer Awesome, And What I Left With (Emotionally and Intellectually, Not Swag-Wise)

After the shenanigans that ensued at BlogHer last year, I was a little worried about this year's conference. I mean, I definitely planned on heading to New York, but I was nervous nonetheless. About potential fodder to perpetuate the bad mommy blogger rap. About the size of the conference. About potential bad brand & blogger behavior. And so forth. So it was with a huge sigh of relief and happiness that I left New York -- my worries unfounded. Yes, the conference was huge, but I heard someone astutely comment that in being a huge conference it became small, in the sense that you had to seek out small group interaction more. With one exception of a blogger randomly thrusting a promotional flyer in my hand, the brands and bloggers seemed well behaved. Even my dodgy pregnancy appetite and fatigue subsided in the face of the infectious New York energy.

I also like to think that part of my personal happiness with the conference came from being better prepared, which I was if you don’t count packing. Back in June I shared a less is more approach to BlogHer and I followed it to the letter. Here are the tenets of my approach and how things shook out:

1. Be realistic about the conference program…and take a step outside your comfort zone.

As I looked through the conference program, I decided to attend two sessions I normally wouldn’t attend. The first was my friend Gabby’s design panel (I design websites so one might think I don’t need to attend this kind of session); the second was the stats panel (I never check my metrics and feel that people are too obsessed with them). I found both sessions tremendously interesting and walked away with many nuggets of wisdom that I hope to implement soon.

2. Take a realistic look at your social calendar.

Shortly after I wrote my less is more post, I took a hard look at my calendar and rescinded RSVPs to events where I knew I would not be able to get there in time to give the hosts and sponsors due respect. I also kept declining new event invitations as they rolled in, no matter how awesome the event. This was hard for me because my default is to want to do everything possible to support my friends who are hosting things, but I stuck to my policy. My first day in NY involved more tight transitions than I wanted (I went from the TODAY show to Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project event on Ellis Island to SocialLuxe to a dinner with friends) but the rest of the weekend worked really well with my reduced calendar. I’ll get to small group/individual interactions next, but I just wanted to give a shout out to SocialLuxe (organized by my talented friends Marie, Allison, and Jane) and Getting Gorgeous (co-hosted by my lovely friend Audrey) -- both events were large yet executed really beautifully. I also loved the Nate Berkus, Sparklecorn, and CheeseburgHerz parties (though admittedly it was a little disorienting being in a ballroom not a hotel suite for CheeseburgHerz). So many friends, so much awesomeness.

My one regret is that I didn’t manage my time well at the end of the day on Friday and missed the Voices of the Year Gala and Art Auction curated by Kirtsy. The auction is live right now if you want to get your hands on some fine art while benefiting the Gulf.

3. Book face time with friends.

One of my favorite things about this conference was how much small group time there was, whether explicitly carved out by me or event organizers. For example:

It was utterly perfect to start my time in New York City at the TODAY show (thank you Alicia!), where a small group of bloggers convened, including wonderful folks such as Audrey, Kristen, Catherine, Colleen, Renee, Danielle, Isabel, Allison, Barbara, Cecily, Katja, Dina, and Emily. It was intimate and relaxed and fun and I was so proud to see Liz Gumbinner and Ree Drummond represent women bloggers so graciously.

One of my favorite pictures of the conference. I heart you Liz.

It was similarly wonderful to end my first day in New York City at a small group dinner organized by the lovely Liz and Kristen. We dined at La Esquina, where the food was fantastic and the conversation and laughter flowed. I had the pleasure of sitting between and chatting a lot with Gretchen and Julie, and connecting with so many wonderful friends, old and new. I heart you Asha, Nicole, Lena, Christina, Isabel, Pierre, Tania, Roxanna, Tina, Georgia, Susan, Heather, Y, and Anna (and other wonderful people I know I’m totally missing in this list...sorry!). Only regret (other than omitting folks in this list)? I failed to take any pictures at dinner.

Last year I lamented not running the BlogHer 5K with my fellow Shredheads, convinced I could never run. What a difference a year makes. This year I happily ran alongside the lovely Samantha and Linsey (my Eat Blog Run teammates) and not only ran, but chatted while running. I always thought I was incapable of chatting while running but go figure, it made the run zip by. It was fantastic to start the day with a run through Central Park.

Another great thing was carving out times with friends over meals. On Friday I connected with Marie, Jane, Samantha, and Linsey of Eat Blog Run (we missed you Heather, but glad I got chat time with you elsewhere!). On Saturday, I met with the lovely Kelly and Justine for breakfast, and with some of my favorite Boston area bloggers, Christina, Tania, and Roxanna, for lunch. Having those small, intimate lunches was utterly delightful. I also ended up tracking down Lindsay at the bar one evening; so great to catch up.

There were a couple of people that I hunted down by phone. The first was my delightful friend Elizabeth – we parked ourselves in the hotel lobby to catch up, and it was wonderful to do so. Given that we were near the elevators, it also ended up being the perfect spot to have other friends drop by and say hello. We’re setting up camping chairs next time! The second person I hunted down was Kimberly. We had a couple of connection misfires but ultimately did get in some chat time. And I was so happy to capture this utterly stunning photo of her.

The utterly gorgeous and smart Kimberly Coleman.

My last stop in New York was the Juno Baby event at FAO Schwartz. It was lovely to connect with folks like Jenny, Whitney, Karen, Maggie, and Laura, who I hadn’t seen much or at all through the weekend.

I just adore this picture with Karen Walrond.

I also was thrilled to finally meet Meagan, Annie, Amelia Sprout, Aimee, Kami, Catherine, Laura, and Liz, among other folks. So. Awesome.

{Intermission while my wrist recovers from all of that link love…}

4. Pack what makes you happy and comfortable.

I did, in fact, pack clothes that made me happy and comfortable and pretty (it also helped that Gap helped dress me because I was totally last minute with packing -- thank you Gap). I also packed less shoes. It was perfect.

5. Be mindful about swag.

I didn’t seek out swag at suites or at the Expo. The only things I picked up were bags that were set aside for me at different events. I still had quite a lot of things to take home but I did look through everything before taking the trouble to haul it home and either shared with my roommates (champagne and coffee doesn’t work for me right now) or the swag suite. I also brought home things that are fabulous but that I don't really need, to share with my contributing writers.

Other things that were key to this awesome weekend?

Having awesome roommates. Asha and Katherine are amazing. I love that after knowing Katherine for less than 24 hours she was already comfortable enough with me to jokingly (or not) gift me with Metamucil. #thatslovebaby #pregnancywoes

Katherine and Asha = best roomates a girl could ask for.

It also helped that my complicated transit plans, which involved several modes of transportation + connecting with my in-laws to drop off/pick up Laurel, worked seamlessly.

So, what did I leave BlogHer with?

A deep and profound appreciation for my friends. I may be imagining it, but I feel as if so many people totally have my back if I need them. Even if it’s via the internet.

An idea for a book I want to write, inspired by a conversation with the lovely Gretchen Rubin.

Warm, fuzzy feelings about my baby to be; look how effortless Gabby makes toting a baby at a conference look.

Gabby makes parenting look effortless and beautiful. I love this portrait.

Immense pride for the accomplishments of my community (Susan, I need to order your book!).

One of these days, I want to publish a book. I love that there are role models all around me. Congrats Susan!

A desire to go to cake baking school. Or maybe intern at Charm City Cakes.

Duff, give me a call if you need help in the kitchen. I am the ultimate worker bee.

A desire to be employed by the Muppet Workshop.

The Muppet Workshop at FAO Schwartz.

A desire to sit down and think about my content, finally look at my stats, and do a major redesign of Boston Mamas.

I can do all of this before the baby comes in March, right?